No other way to say it: The moment was too big for the young Sacramento Kings | Opinion

·5 min read
Hector Amezcua/

The moment was too big for the young Sacramento Kings. They had the four-time champion Golden State Warriors in a climactic Game 7 at Golden 1 Center, and the Kings inexplicably forgot to deploy the frenetic team play that got them here and wore the Warriors out on Friday in San Francisco.

A Kings franchise and a Sacramento region aching for a momentous win watched it all drain away methodically in the second half as the Warriors carved up the Kings. The Kings gave them plenty of help. The final score of 120-100 wasn’t even that close.

In a dismal, gut-wrenching end to this series, Stephen Curry scored 50 and flashed that smug smile as he destroyed the Kings. It was the latest in a career of magic from Curry, the greatest pure shooter in NBA history and one of the game’s most amazing competitors.

For the Kings, this game was more than they could handle. For Curry, it was just another game.

It was sad to see the Kings resort to throwing up one missed shot after another in the second half while the Warriors responded with team play.


For the Kings, this was a lesson wrapped in a spanking. It was humiliation delivered with a smile by the Warriors who did what they do, effortlessly. The Kings and their fans could only wonder what went wrong.

Owned by the Warriors

Where was the pace the Kings showed at Chase Center in San Francisco in Game 6? Where were the Kings defenders flying at the Warriors, contesting every pass and shot? Where was the speed that caused the Warriors to raise the white flag when there was still plenty of time left in the last game?

It was all gone, replaced by terrible shot selection, dumb fouls, missed free throws, cheap turnovers and — worst of all — getting absolutely owned on boards by the older, slower Warriors.

Most poignant of all, Kings talisman De’Aaron Fox had a nightmare game. He turned the ball over five times, his speed had little consequence on the game, and he fell into foul trouble when his exquisite judgment abandoned him.

It was humbling and brutal to watch.

The Warriors didn’t just want this more than the Kings, they knew how to win today, and the Kings didn’t.

The first half was frenetic, and the Kings were pushing the pace, though not as manically as they did in Game 6. Domantas Sabonis had a big first half, leading the Kings with 16 points. He was hitting shots and teaming with Fox for big baskets.

Malik Monk was proving again that he was no fluke with nine points and four rebounds. And Terence Davis was again a factor as he had been in Game 6. Davis hit three 3-pointers and showed no fear shooting, though he was often tasked with guarding Curry, and it was Curry who was keeping the Warriors close by being his usual great self.

Curry led all scorers in the first half with 20 points. He was a 35-year-old blur. He hit 3-pointers even when the Kings defended him admirably.

The Warriors only trailed by two points, 58-56, at the half despite Klay Thompson being invisible in the first half. Thompson missed all four of his 3-point shots in the first half. He only hit one of his 10 shots overall, and the rest of his seven first-half points came from the free-throw line.

This loss will hurt

As for the Kings, they went to the locker room at halftime probably feeling good — but not great. Of particular concern were the five missed free throws in the first half. The Kings’ energy forced the Warriors to be in the penalty with six minutes left in the half, and yet they couldn’t distance themselves from the Warriors.

For veteran Kings fans, the missed free throws surely resurfaced terrible memories of the 14 free throws the 2002 Kings missed in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Kings wasted their only shot at a championship in the Sacramento era at the free-throw line.

And here were these Kings, with no connections to those terrible memories, and yet they were leaving needed points at the stripe.

The game was too close considering that neither Thompson nor Draymond Green were factors for the Warriors in the first half. And right out of the half, a very quiet Fox missed a shot, Curry hit a 3, and the Warriors took the lead. It was an omen of the things to come.

Fox struggled, with his shot and his judgment. He had four fouls with seven minutes left in the third and had to sit down. Once again, Kevin Huerter struggled. In the second half, Warriors center Kevon Looney suddenly emerged and grabbed key rebounds that the Kings desperately needed.

In this series, when the Kings turned games into track meets with occasional physical scrums, they won. They not only won, but they also demoralized the Warriors. But when the games became about making big shots, grabbing rebounds and executing when the pressure was most intense, the Warriors won.

With three minutes left in the third, the Kings were down by 12 but were lucky it wasn’t worse. If the Warriors could have hit their free throws, they would have pushed their lead to beyond 20 points.

It was mystifying. The third quarter was a disaster for the Kings, an utter meltdown.

All that was left in the end was the sound of Kings fans chanting, “SAC-RA-MENTO” when all was lost. Was this still a great Kings season? Yes. Is the Kings’ future bright? It is. But this one will hurt for a long time. The Kings had the Warriors where they wanted them, but they ran into a dynasty that learned long ago what the Kings didn’t understand: You win these games by being cold-blooded and ruthless.

Hopefully, the young Kings learn the lesson delivered by one of the greatest NBA teams ever.